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Two coincident events commemorated on the same day Teatro Estudio and the Escambray

Fifty years ago, Theatre Estudio burst onto the national scene. Its letter of introduction was a manifest, associated with the premiere of Long day’s journey into night by Eugene O’Neill. The founders carried in their bodies and in their artistic experience the memory of knowledge accumulated since the thirties, The Cave opened the road to the relaunching of Cuban theatre through an active dialogue with the international vanguard.

Against all odds, without official support, the continuity of a constant effort made itself known with different names. The University Theatre appealed to a classical repertory, the Greco-Latin antiquity and, at times, to the Spanish golden age. ADAD went through Ibsen and Bernard Shaw until arriving at Tennessee Williams. Even then, however, the alternative between a digestive theatre, for the taste of a potential conformist consumer and an experimental adventure of a radical vanguard, was coming into question.
The Patronage Theatre adjusted itself to the bourgeois spectator´s desires, as was done sometime later, in the so-called time of the small auditoriums, by the projects located around La Rampa*, while in the historic centre, Prometheus was clinging to a rigorous intransigence and in the Prado 260 the premiere of Ionesco’s Bald soprano was taking place.

The circumstances were very hard. The traditional theatre public, such as happened in other places, succumbed to the fascination of cinema. But, in the case of Cuba, the nineteen fifties suffered the brand of Batista´s dictatorship.
The direct battles were taking place in the Sierra. In the cities, the repression acted with blind violence. The nights were frequently ominous with the explosion of bombs and the howling of police cars. In that context, the appearance of Teatro Estudio was something of a raving utopia. In a cross-current to what had been established, the program upheld a group ethic, a generating core of an ideological and aesthetic development. The actors stopped being mere performers.
They turned into active participants of the creating process. It was not only about setting up performances, but to articulate a system of permanent training through the incorporation of the Stanislavski method and the presence of cultural disciplines and social thought. In 1958 it was announcing the future and itself becoming the matrix of the scenic practice that would multiply itself into the sixties.

In 1968, Theatre Estudio had left a deep mark on the Cuban culture. It was then that a group of artists plunged themselves into the adventure of the Escambray. Sergio Corrieri´s personality, founder of both groups, established the link between both experiences.
After Stanislavski, as happened in the rest of Latin America, the work of Brecht reaffirmed the characteristic group concept of Theatre Estudio, but placed the project in Brecht’s coordinates of the dialogical bond with the spectator. Unknowingly then, their quests were coinciding with those of a significant sector of the Latin American stage movement. Extremely radical, the Cubans’ initiative was putting to a test all of the knowledge accumulated in years of practice. The potential spectators were bearers of unknown cultural moral values, unexplored.
Their possible referents were the moving cinema and the television that was beginning to be installed in the electrified zones. They had gone through the convulsive phase of the struggle against the bandits and the possibility was proposed to them to turn over their parcel of land to join the agricultural development plans. All of them, artists and peasants, were facing a journey into the unknown.

The coincidence of the two events commemorated on the same day promotes the need to examine the relations of continuity and rupture between both experiences, of re-inscribing them in the Latin American stage panorama of this time. It matters, most of all in the case of the Escambray, to clean the land of many parasitical plants that, at some time, obscured the critical analyses of the contribution of the group to art and Cuban culture. The controversies prove to be fruitful when they accelerate the reproduction of the ideas. They sterilize when they inscribe themselves into the narrow horizons of vain village people. The flow of time, defines. That´s why the anniversaries that are now being commemorated provoke this necessary recollection.



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